Thursday, 9 May 2019

Questions (14)

Martin Heydon


14. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of the beef environmental efficiency pilot; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20104/19]

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Oral answers (4 contributions) (Question to Agriculture)

I ask the Minister to provide an update on the beef environmental efficiency pilot, BEEP, scheme. It is a very good scheme that is in its first year. Have farmers been contacted about it and what is the position with regard to the roll-out of the scheme?

In January of this year, I launched the BEEP scheme with a funding provision of €20 million in 2019.  BEEP targets the weaning efficiency of suckler cows and calves by measuring the live weight of the calf pre-weaning as a percentage of the cow's live weight. BEEP was announced in budget 2019 as part of the €78 million Brexit package for the agrifood industry. As well as clear environmental and climate benefits, BEEP will provide additional farm income at a time of market volatility and uncertainty relating to Brexit.

Some 18,883 farmers had registered their interest in participating in the pilot by the closing date of 22 February 2019 and they will qualify for payment provided they comply with the requirements to weigh each cow and calf and provide the requisite data to the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation, ICBF, in accordance with the terms and conditions of the scheme. The €20 million funding available will allow for payment of up to a maximum of €40 per calf.

The ICBF has been registering privately-owned scales and accepting weight records from participating beef farmers since 8 March. More than 1,700 individuals have registered privately-owned scales to date and some 30,000 weights have been recorded. Last week, I welcomed the roll-out of rental scales to 70 Irish Co-operative Organisation Society, ICOS, affiliated livestock marts and co-operatives across the country. Scales are now available to rent from these locations allowing those farmers who do not have access to privately-owned scales to record eligible cow and calf weights to meet their requirements under the pilot. The roll-out of rental scales is in conjunction with the earlier release of smart phone applications for both Android and Apple devices to facilitate the quick and accurate submission of weight records. Weights may be submitted online, by smart phone application or on a paper form available from the ICBF.

I thank the Minister for that update. When can farmers enrolled in the scheme expect to receive payment? Will the Minister outline the climate and environmental benefits of the scheme? How does the weighing of animals provide benefits to farmers and the environment?

On the most important element, payments are scheduled for early December.

The data that will be collected will be very useful to the ICBF, as it will complement the BDGP, which is part of the endeavour to improve the genetic merit of our beef herd, thereby driving down its carbon footprint and helping the Department fulfil its climate change obligations. Apart from the financial support it delivers to individual farmers who apply through the payments they will receive, it is also part of the bigger picture in terms of reducing the carbon footprint of the industry.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.